Hey the BBC are in town. Well not my town but in Ostuni ( where else) ) the white city as it is known though since the big recession more a dirty grey as householders cut back on white paint much to the chagrin of the present Mayor who keeps extolling them to get the paint brushes out.
This picture was taken long before the great recession.
The BBC is here filming a new series of Italy Unpacked with Andrew Graham-Dixon and Giorgio Locatelli . If your like me you will have looked at those names and said who the devil are they ? Well a clue is one of them is an Italian chef. You just have to guess which one !!
Okay the Italian chef is Giorgio Locatelli were you right ?
But before you dash on to Google to find out more I have saved you the bother. His UK career stated in the kitchens of the Savoy Hotel then a spell in Paris before he returned to run a restaurant called Olivo down near Ebury Street in Victoria. So I hadn’t heard of him but I have eaten there. The place prided itself on never serving a dish with butter always using olive oil instead which I guess was why he called it that. I do remember in the 1990’s it was very good.
He then took over Zafferano in Lowndes Street which he turned into an Italian restaurant from it being a fish place ( that isn’t a pun). I’ve actually eaten there too but before he won his first Michelin star in 1999.
In case you’re rushing there having seen that clip let me just add they lost their star in 2012 long after Giorgio had moved on to own Locanda Locatelli
Let me add it ain’t cheap. secondi piatti are from about £35 ( $60) which given that the meal for two we had last night at a little place nearby was less than that for the entire meal including the wine.
So what about Andrew Graham-Dixon ? Well here he is
Double barreled name, that look and a painting just behind him. Plenty of clues aren’t there.
Yes he is an art historian so the BBC programme is about food and art and here if you have the time is them in Napoli during the last series.
Great way to learn Italian is with the subtitles in Italian. There is plenty of research which shows that countries where it is deemed important to say learn English which dub their TV and films have much lower fluency levels than countries that use subtitles. It obviously works the other way too so finding TV series like Montalbano on Amazon.co.uk with subtitles is very helpful as are Italian films.
Now I am a bit of an heathen when it comes to art I’m afraid and have cantered around Florence, Rome and Venice at a fair old pace tending never to invest in a guide and simply glancing at the various pictures and understanding little or nothing. I am always more interested in the restaurant for lunch, the bar for evening cocktails and the place for dinner afterwards.
I am sure young Andrew can bring things alive and apparently his latest book is fantastic according to the critics. It is about Michelangelo Merisi Du Caravaggio ( 1571-1610) . But again if your like me you’ll go who again / But this time we are entitled to as after he died he disappeared from the art scene as did his stuff ( see I am an heathen).
That’s him by the way. he was quite a lad it seems. He was always in brawls and always fleeing Italian cities with a price tag on his head. He fought duels and there was mystery surrounding one of the people he killed. He was outlawed by the Pope and spent time in Naples and Sicily . As a painter he is recognised now as the founder of Baroque and had huge influence on it.
As we are surrounded by the stuff in Puglia I guess I should have heard of him.
Italy Unpacked in the series to be aired on BBC TV in January 2015 is about Puglia before the duo head back north. In Ostuni they are doing Baroque of course and the simple cooking style of Puglia . They are also very focussed on olive oil and it’s production here . Yesterday they were filming in the olive groves and in a frantoio ( olive press) which I guess through the wonder of TV will be seen in full production long before the harvest is gathered in this year.
Obviously the tourist boards of Ostuni are delighted to have them and the newspaper has plenty of pictures of them and notes that with world wide syndication the programme will reach 72 million people during 2015. Now that is an awful lot of potential tourists down here.
I’m not a great lover of Ostuni as it tends to be quite a tourist rip off type of place. But lots of visitors especially Americans love it which means places like Martina Franca remain almost tourist free and quiet. So long may it continue.